Why pay? Free social media monitoring tools get the job done

Do you cover social media?

This question comes up a lot – and the answer is yes* … and no.

Even getting to a common understanding of what people mean by ‘social media’ can be surprisingly hard. Is it social networks like Twitter and Facebook? Is it blogs? Is it message boards and forums? Is it the comments that appear at the bottom of articles on mainstream news websites? Is it comments on niche content sites? Or YouTube? … or is it all of these things and more?

The truth is – media monitoring companies in New Zealand and elsewhere have proven way too quick to make broad statements about ‘covering social media’ – without any understanding of what that actually means to a particular client.

We’re all somewhat susceptible to wanting to believe there’s an easy answer to social media monitoring. That there’s some perfect off the shelf solution that will tell us everything we want to know – and nothing we don’t.

At Fuseworks, we spend a lot of time looking at various ways to monitor social media and have evaluated many of the current products on the market. They all disappoint in various ways – typically managing to simultaneously shower you with too much information and too little insight – while inevitably missing conversations that end up being important.

After several years looking at the problem we’ve reached two important conclusions:

1. There’s no substitute – at any price point – for just driving head first into the communities and websites that are relevant to your organisation. If you have a NZ focused technology product – make it part of your daily routine to stop by Geekzone. If you’re always getting talked about on Twitter – have an account and dive into the Twitterverse throughout the day … and so on.

2. There’s no social media monitoring product currently on the market that justifies its sticker price. That may change over time, but right now – free tools combined with your own participation in social media will produce better outcomes for your organisation than paying for tools that are very limited in their coverage and extremely time consuming to use.

Some of the most useful free social media monitoring solutions we’ve found are:

Social Mention – Search engine and alerts system covering a range of social media. You can set up searches and then get matching results via RSS or Email.

Tweetdeck – Twitter monitoring. Owned by Twitter. Allows you to connect a Twitter account/s and monitor tweets from the accounts followed and setup keyword searches to capture relevant material from any user.

Topsy – Twitter analytics. Let’s you search and compare queries and see the volume of tweets.

Back Tweet – Search for links on Twitter (ie: links to material you post on your website).

At Fuseworks we’re continuing to investigate ways to deliver social media monitoring in a way that filters out the noise# and focuses in on the conversations that matter to your organisation. Stay tuned.

Happy monitoring!

# Twitter alone now processes more than 400 million tweets per day.

* Fuseworks monitors blogs.